September 29, 2012

White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

It's official: the first signs of fall have reached the South. It may be 80-something degrees in the afternoon, but it is frigid in the morning (well, if you count 50 degrees as freezing) and leaves are beginning to fall from the trees. I've been baking cinnamony and pumpkiny and cranberry-y things for a month now and it finally feels justifiable.

To celebrate, I made a batch of buttery shortbread studded with creamy white chocolate and tart cranberries. They melt in your mouth and are deliciously crumbly, and they have all the good things of shortbread plus all that's good about fall. Another bonus is that, because they are shortbread and not sugar cookies, there are no eggs. All that means to me is that I can eat the dough without worrying about salmonella and that fun stuff.

Want to know the key characteristic of shortbread? Let's ask our good friend Paula Deen. Enough said. There is a LOT of butter in this recipe, but that is what makes them melt in your mouth, and it also gives the cookies wonderful flavor. Since there are no eggs, butter is the primary source of moisture; you want a dry, crumbly cookie, but you want a cookie, not streusel. Without this ungodly amount of butter, you would just be baking mounds of coffee cake topper. That's delicious and all, but I want a cookie and I want it to taste good.

These cookies are what is commonly known as slice and bake cookies, which means that you roll the dough into a log, chill it, and slice it into coins. You can make the logs as big or as small as you want, but I make mine about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and slice them about half an inch thick. This size allows them to bake perfectly and have the best texture without becoming too dark.

What makes these cookies unique is the smattering of dried cranberries. You can get dried cranberries pretty much anywhere now, and for good reason. They are pleasantly chewy and tart, and they complement the flavors and textures of both the white chocolate and the shortbread. I don't bother chopping mine for this recipe since they are cut when I slice the logs of dough; this cuts down on time and the varied sizes of cranberries gives the cookies a rustic look.

My white chocolate cranberry cookies couldn't be simpler, and they taste so good!  The flavors are simple and shout elements of fall. I like to make them in bulk and keep them in my freezer because both the dough and the cookies freeze spectacularly, but they are usually gone within hours anyway.

2 Sticks Butter, Softened
1 Cup Powdered Sugar
2 Cups Flour
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 Cup White Chocolate Chips
1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries

Beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the vanilla and salt, then add the flour. Fold in the white chocolate chips and cranberries.

Split the dough in half. Place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap and roll into two logs about 1 1/2" in diameter, sealing the ends of the plastic. Chill until cold, about 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 350F and line cookie trays with parchment.

Slice the dough into 1/2" rounds and place the coins on the prepared trays. Bake for 8 minutes or until just golden around the edges.

Makes 28
Recipe Adapted from

September 21, 2012

Peach Crumb Cake

I love this peach crumb cake because, well, it's cake for breakfast. Sure, you can have a muffin and call it a cupcake, but this is an actual cake. For breakfast. Of course, I add fruit to make it somewhat excusable, but come on. It's cake. For breakfast.

There are three components to this cake: the cake itself, the peaches, and the crumble. The cake is a light and fluffy vanilla cake. I want to keep it simple so that I can layer on other flavors without overloading my taste buds. I top the cake with some peaches; I don't season or cook them ahead of time since I want them to become a part of the cake and crumble, not overpower them. I top the whole thing off with a crunchy and sweet cinnamon crumble. It seals in some of the moisture from the peaches while still adding texture.

The three parts of the cake work together because all the flavors complement each other. Cinnamon and vanilla go together wonderfully, and the peaches work well with both. The combination of the variety of textures, the sweetness of the layers, and the freshness of the peaches make a delicious breakfast!

2 Large Peaches
2 1/3 Cups Flour
1/3 + 1/6 Cup Sugar
1/6 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Light Brown Sugar
1/3 tsp Cinnamon
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp + Pinch Salt
2 Eggs
1 Stick Butter, Melted
2 T Milk
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla

Heat oven to 400F. Grease a 9" round cake pan and line with parchment.

Combine 1/6 cup sugar, dark brown sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Whisk in 1/2 stick melted butter. Foldi n 1/2 + 1/3 cup flour and chill.

Cut the peaches into 16-18 wedges each.

Combine the remaining flour, remaining sugar, light brown sugar, baking powder, and remaining salt.

Whisk the eggs together, then add the remaining butter, milk, and vanilla. Add to the dry ingredients.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Fan out the peach slices in one large circle and another small one on top. Sprinkle with the crumb mixture, allowing some peaches to peek through. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cooked through.

Makes 1 9" Round
Recipe Adapted from Carole Bloom

September 8, 2012

Vanilla Peach Popsicles

These popsicles will satisfy your sweet tooth while still being relatively healthy. They are full of peaches, and I cut down on the cream by using tart and tangy Greek yogurt. It gives the popsicles amazing texture and another dimension of flavor.

I happen to have popsicle molds, but disposable cups and popsicle sticks are a wonderful alternative. You can adjust the size of your popsicles by changing the size of the cup, and only the time needed to freeze completely will change. To unmold them, simply run the mold or cup under hot water until the outside melts enough to release.

Peaches and vanilla are a wonderful combination, and this is a delicious way to enjoy it! My popsicles are cold, creamy, sweet, and tart, and they are perfect for an after-school snack.

1/2 Cup + 2 T Sugar
1 Vanilla Bean
24 oz Peaches
2/3 Cup Cream
1/3 Cup Vanilla Greek Yogurt

Peel and dice the peaches.

Combine the sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small pot. Add the seeds and pod of the vanilla bean and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Chill and discard the vanilla bean pod.

Pulse the vanilla syrup and the peaches in a food processor until smooth. Strain; there should be about 3 cups. Whisk in the cream and yogurt.

Pour the base into popsicle molds or cups and freeze until solid, pressing in popsicle sticks if necessary when somewhat firm.

Recipe Adapted from Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez

September 3, 2012

Ginger Peach Smoothies

Smoothies are a fantastic breakfast; they are fast, easy, and incredibly healthy. It is the height of peach season, so I decided to make a smoothie with them. I also added some ginger, a low-calorie boost of flavor packed with Vitamin B and Potassium. To sweeten my smoothie, I used brown sugar instead of plain granulated sugar for a hint of molasses. I would reduce the sugar and then add more to taste depending on how sweet your peaches are. It is as healthy as breakfast can get, and delicious, too.

2 Cups Diced Fresh Peaches (2 Medium)
1 1/4 Cups Milk
3 T Brown Sugar
2 tsp Grated Fresh Ginger

Pulse the peaches, sugar, and ginger in a food processor or blender until chopped. Add the milk and blend until mostly smooth.

Serves 2
Recipe Adapted from Food Network Magazine